by Cynthia Chow
& Vicki Delany
This week we have a review of Vicki Delany’s latest mystery A Cold White Sun, and a guest post by Vicki about getting the police side of her novels correct. Details at the end of this post on how to win a copy of this book.
A Cold White Sun: A Constable Molly Smith Mystery By Vicki Delany
Review by Cynthia Chow
As the spring ski season ends in Trafalgar, British Columbia, high school English teacher Cathy Lindsay is shockingly gunned down while taking a vacation hike on a trail near her home. At first, the middle-aged mother and wife to inoffensive computer programmer, Gord Lindsay, would seem to be the least likely of targets for a sniper. Even in this quiet community though, everyone has a secret and Sergeant John Winters soon discovers that all was not well in the Lindsay marriage. Rumors of affairs by both parties abound, although he also has reason to wonder if the shooting stems from random violence or worse and could be linked to a high school student.
Winters is again assisted by Constable Molly Smith, the ambitious and often insecure young law enforcement officer whose love of skiing places her in the direct path of a charming young ski instructor. After the death of her fiancée, Molly has made advancement in her career a priority which definitely adds to her confusion over the state of her relationship with RCMP Constable Adam Tocek. While Adam is certain of his feelings for her, Molly is experiencing commitment phobia and unsure if her feelings are strong enough for her to take the next step.
Combined with the machinations of the investigation are glimpses into the lives of those who are affected by the single act of violence. Feeling relief as much as sorrow for the loss of a wife he no longer loved, Gord neglects his attention-starved daughter, while his teenage son careens out of control with destructive and rebellious behavior. The unwanted target of Cathy’s infatuation feels the weight of suspicion, as the former war veteran turned teacher slowly descends into a hell already forged by PSTD. Even as all of this goes on, Winters’ wife, Eliza, a former model whose investments allow her to own several unprofitable art galleys, is the unwelcome recipient of her elderly employee’s confession about a tragic loss which has her believing that a stranger in town is the baby she gave up over forty years ago.
Delany’s mysteries resemble those of Louise Penny’s in the best possible way as they focus on the intricate details making up the many characters that populate their small towns. Delany draws the reader into the life of Gord Lindsay as his home life collapses and experience dread and trepidation witnessing a woman’s inevitably doomed obsession with the man she believes to be her son. The most sympathetic characters are at times unlikable, and yet Delany expertly reveals why they act as they do in such a way that makes them redeemable.
In perhaps the most unlikely of pairings Molly’s mother Lucky, a left-leaning activist who gifted her daughter with the name Moonlight Legolas, finds herself breaking off the relationship with Molly’s boss, Chief Constable Paul Keller, in the belief that despite their attraction to one another, their differences are too insurmountable. That the two women who couldn’t be more unalike find themselves at similar crossroads is both charming and ironic, a perfect description of the tone of this wonderfully descriptive and moving village mystery series.
Four cops, Two paramedics, One Mystery Writer
By Vicki Delany
That’s how many people it took to wake one man up to go to work.
After I’d published two novels of standalone suspense with Poisoned Pen Press my editor, Barbara Peters and I decided it was time to try a series. I knew right away that I wanted to write the type of series I like most to read: the traditional British-type police procedurals. But first, I had one problem: I have no experience in law enforcement whatsoever. I used to be a systems analyst at a bank–not a lot of gun battles or “drunk-and-disorderlies” in that job! We didn’t even have a jail in the office basement.
I knew that if I was to create a reasonably realistic police series I would need some help. Plus, being a Canadian-set series, I knew that I couldn’t reply on American TV or British novels to teach me anything about how policing is done in Canada. I’ve been very lucky and there are now six novels in the Constable Molly Smith series set in the fictional town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, Canada.
Everywhere I’ve been I’ve found police officers to be more than helpful in talking to me about the ins and outs of their job. I have a detective constable who enjoys answering all my questions and will look things up, or ask the department lawyer, if he doesn’t know. I’ve toured police stations, met many officers, been out on ride-alongs and walk-alongs, talked to the dog handler and met his dog, been to watch in-service training, to the firearms training course, where they didn’t let me touch a weapon, you’ll be pleased to hear. My contacts put me in touch with specialists if they don’t know the answers, such as the recent question of how to make a car bomb.
I’ve had some really boring nights too. As I try to explain when the nice officer assigned to take me out apologizes because nothing at all happened, if I want to see a gun battle or a bank robbery in progress, I’ll watch TV. It’s the everyday details of the ordinary cop’s job that I’m interested in seeing first hand that I want to give veracity to the books. The protagonist of the Constable Molly Smith series is young, green and a bit naïve. When the series begins, in In the Shadow of the Glacier, she is still on probation. She walks the beat on a Saturday afternoon, attends fender-benders, throws drunks into the “drunk” tank, tells people to empty out their cans of beer, helps confused old ladies cross the street, answers domestic disturbances and stands outside crime scenes not letting just anyone in.
This is the detail of day-to-day policing I’m trying to get right for my books. That, as well as the way the officers relate to each other, the jokes they tell, how they balance families and young children, how they train (or not). My books are about murder and kidnapping and tragedy, yes, but they are also about people and relationships.
One thing I’m learning from the ride-alongs I’ve been on over the past two years is that there can be a lot of humor in a cop’s job. It’s a tough, often unpleasant, job and they put their lives on the line every day. But boy, do they get a good laugh some times.
Recently, the car I was in was called to a home where a man wasn’t answering the door to his friend who had come to take him to work. It was the usual time and the usual routine and the friend was worried because the man had a medical condition. He had hammered on the door, tried to peer in windows and even climbed a tree to get a peek inside, but no answer and no movement.
When we got there, the officer banged on the door, bellowed, peered in windows and banged and bellowed again. He called for an ambulance. Reinforcements arrived, including the sergeant. Someone crouched down, yelled into the cat door and took a sniff. Ugh. Eventually there were four cops, two paramedics and one mystery writer gathered at the top of a rickety set of stairs leading to the upstairs apartment. Permission to knock down the door was given, the door was kicked in and everyone rushed in. Everyone, that is, save said mystery writer, who hung behind not wanting to see anything yucky. Then I heard a shout, “XX, what are you doing still in bed? Aren’t you going to work?”
So I also wandered into the apartment to have a look.
Yup, the guy was tucked up in bed. Didn’t feel like going to work, didn’t bother phoning in, and didn’t particularly want to get up and open the door. Out we all trooped, one mystery writer, two paramedics, four cops, leaving XX in bed and a broken door swinging on its hinges.
To enter to win a copy of A Cold White Sun, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “Sun”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 24, 2013. U.S. & Candian residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.